Cincinnati Reds – MLB Trade Rumors 2018-12-10T03:19:05Z WordPress Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Reds Re-Sign Aristides Aquino To Minors Deal]]> 2018-12-09T22:09:15Z 2018-12-09T22:08:20Z
  • The Reds have re-signed outfielder Aristides Aquino to a minor league deal, Eddy tweets (and as Greeneville Reds play-by-play announcer Justin Rocke first reported earlier this week). Cincinnati non-tendered Aquino last week, but it was reported at the time that the team was interested in bringing him back. The 24-year-old will now remain with the Reds, his only professional organization since he signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2011. Aquino played almost exclusively at the Double-A level from 2017-18 and combined to hit .227/.293/.421 with 37 home runs in 949 plate appearances, though he did appear in one Reds game last season.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Reds Not Prioritizing Extension For Scooter Gennett ]]> 2018-12-09T02:41:23Z 2018-12-09T01:54:24Z
  • Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett carried his surprising 2017 breakout into last season, when he finished fifth at his position in fWAR (4.5). The Cincinnati native is now a year away from free agency, but with the Winter Meetings approaching, a potential extension isn’t one of the Reds’ main priorities right now, president Dick Williams explained Friday (via Mark Sheldon of “I wouldn’t expect it before the calendar turns [to 2019],” Williams said. “There’s too much up in the air in terms of roster construction going forward. I don’t think you’ll see us working on any extensions for anybody — that’s not just Scooter-specific. But I don’t see any other extensions happening in the next 30 days while we’re working out the roster.” Williams added that the Reds “will be careful about a lot of extensions,” so it’s unclear how serious they are about re-upping Gennett. Barring a new deal, Gennett’s projected to earn $10.7MM in 2019 – a healthy raise over the $5.7MM he pulled in during the career year he enjoyed in 2018.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Reds Reportedly “Pursuing” A.J. Pollock]]> 2018-12-06T23:46:56Z 2018-12-06T19:14:11Z As they continue to seek ways of boosting their roster for the 2019 campaign, the Reds are “pursuing” free agent center fielder A.J. Pollock, according to Jon Heyman of Fancred (via Twitter). That aligns well with another Thursday report from ESPN’s Buster Olney, who tweets that the Reds have been “active” in their search for outfield help over the past week. Additionally, Heyman notes, the Cincinnati org is still in on southpaw Dallas Keuchel, who’s arguably the top remaining free agent starter.

    We recently noted the potential appeal of Pollock in breaking down the Reds’ offseason opportunities, though at the time it was pure speculation. Since that post went up, the Reds made clear they will indeed be pursuing some change in the outfield mix by non-tendering long-time center fielder Billy Hamilton. That move also saved the club a projected $5.9MM arbitration salary.

    With Hamilton out of the picture, the Reds are left with a pair of left-handed hitters in Scott Schebler and Jesse Winker who feature as likely corner outfield pieces. The former is an option up the middle, though he has spent the bulk of his time as a professional in a corner spot.

    There’s clearly a roster fit for Pollock, then, though it’s questionable whether the Reds will or should meet his rather lofty asking price. Of course, the club may simply have interest to a lower price point, though there should be some competition that’ll support Pollock’s earning power. The Mets are said to be in the mix, with other teams surely also involved. Entering the offseason, MLBTR predicted a four-year, $60MM deal for Pollock, who’ll also require draft compensation by virtue of having declined a qualifying offer.

    If the Reds do go big on a single player, it’s certainly arguable it ought to be a pitcher. The rotation, after all, is still riddled with questions. The Reds’ interest in Keuchel was reported about a week ago. In the interim, two of the other best open-market arms — Patrick Corbin and Nathan Eovaldi — have reached deals, perhaps setting the stage for Keuchel and other pitchers to begin negotiating in earnest.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Reds Have Shown Interest In Joakim Soria]]> 2018-12-04T07:09:07Z 2018-12-04T05:06:57Z
  • Veteran reliever Joakim Soria is drawing interest from at least a handful of clubs at this early stage of the free agent market,’s Jesse Sanchez tweets. The DiamondbacksAngelsYankeesBraves, and Reds are all involved to some extent, per the report, representing an interesting slate of organizations. While the New York and Atlanta clubs are clearly in position to add veteran talent in a bid to repeat their postseason appearances from 2018, the other teams listed by Chavez are in somewhat less-certain positions in respect to the open market. The Los Angeles and Cincinnati ballclubs are surely interested in spending to contend, but will need to choose their targets wisely. Meanwhile, Arizona is exploring sell-side deals while also trying to achieve value with new investments. That Soria appeals to all of these teams seems to suggest that the league believes the 34-year-old has plenty left in the tank. And for good reason: he just wrapped up a campaign in which he spun 60 2/3 innings of 3.12 ERA ball, with a healthy 11.1 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 along with a personal-best 14.4% swinging-strike rate.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Reds Notes: Votto, Williams, Pitching]]> 2018-12-03T02:02:23Z 2018-12-03T02:01:11Z By Joey Votto’s lofty standards, batting .284/.417/.419 counts as a down year, and the Reds first baseman tells’s Mark Sheldon that he is aiming for a return to form in 2019.  Votto plans to refocus on his hitting during his offseason preparations, while also putting a greater emphasis on conditioning.  “It’s not like I dogged it or anything, but there are levels to it,” Votto said.  “If I was 99 percent ready, to be at your very best you need to be at 99.9 percent. I would never have once come into Spring Training and a Major League season without feeling like I’m ready. There are really extremes. I do feel like that’s something I fell short on.”  While Votto still led the league in his OBP, his power dropoff was pronounced, as he posted the lowest full-season slugging percentage, isolated power, and home run numbers of his career.  Votto has been a remarkably productive and consistent player over his career, though since he did just turn 35 in September, so some manner of decline wouldn’t be a surprise going forward, assuming Votto doesn’t get things figured out this winter.

    • The Reds have some extra payroll to spend and they’ve been linked to several available pitchers this winter, though president of baseball operations Dick Williams threw a bit of cold water on the many rumors swirling around this team thus far in the offseason.  Speaking to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer and other reporters at the Redsfest fan event, Williams said that “the reports as a whole I’ve been surprised by how inaccurate they’ve been. They’ve taken us by surprise because they were so off base.  I’m not going to comment on which ones they were. I’ll just caution that in general that those statements on a guy we’re in on or not in on….I just don’t know where that comes from.”  Free agents and trade targets ranging from Dallas Keuchel, J.A. Happ, Patrick Corbin, Sonny Gray, and (before he was dealt to the Yankees) James Paxton have all reportedly drawn some interest from Cincinnati.
    TC Zencka <![CDATA[Reds Non-Tender Juan Graterol, Jordan Patterson and Aristides Aquino]]> 2018-12-01T17:42:03Z 2018-12-01T17:10:34Z The Cincinnati Reds chose not to tender contracts to Juan Graterol, Jordan Patterson and Aristides Aquino, making them free agents. Per Mark Sheldon of, the Reds have interest in re-signing all three to minor league deals (Twitter links).

    It’s been quite the couple of weeks for outfielder/first baseman Jordan Patterson, who only recently was acquired off waivers by the Reds. Shortly before that, the Mets had claimed him off waivers from the Rockies. The 26-year-old will now have some control over his own destiny, as there is clear interest in the former fourth round pick. Patterson’s only major league playing time came in 2016 with the Rockies when he managed to knock eight hits in eighteen at bats, but he is, at this point, a relatively proven commodity in the upper minors looking for an opportunity at the next level.

    Graterol, 29, is a Venezuelan catcher with 106 career big league at-bats across parts of three seasons with the Angels and Twins. Graterol has done his share of traveling in recent years as well, as he was claimed off waivers five times since November 2016. After the Angels released him last June, he signed with the Twins as a free agent, appearing in three games at the ML level before the Reds selected him off waivers in October. While exhibiting very little in the way of power, Graterol has decent contact skills, hitting a combined .299/.330/.350 last season between the Angels, Twins and Triple A.

    Aquino, 24, is a big-armed outfielder with good pop. Despite realizing some of his in-game power potential in Double A this season (.447 SLG), Aquino struggled to make consistent contact (25.2 K%). Still young, he has the potential to carve out a major league role for himself if he can refine his approach, but he will need to improve his pitch recognition in order to harness his raw power and make it as a right fielder in the bigs.

    With the non-tendering of center fielder Billy Hamilton, the Reds 40-man roster is now down to 36.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Reds To Non-Tender Billy Hamilton]]> 2018-11-30T20:43:47Z 2018-11-30T20:23:14Z The Reds are planning to non-tender center fielder Billy Hamilton, reports C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic (via Twitter). He’ll become a free agent and will be eligible to sign with any team once the move is official.

    Billy Hamilton | Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    Hamilton, who turned 28 in September, was arbitration-eligible for the final time this winter and had been projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $5.9MM in 2019. Instead, he’ll hit the open market in search of a new organization after spending the first 10 seasons of his professional career in the Cincinnati organization.

    It’s a surprising bit of news for Hamilton even in spite of the defensive standout’s ongoing struggles at the plate. Reds owner Bob Castellini has previously gone on record to state that he hoped Hamilton would be a Red “forever” (Twitter link via Jerry Crasnick), and the organization has rebuffed trade interest in the speedster in each of the past two offseasons.

    It seems, however, that the organization simply no longer feels that the benefit of Hamilton’s glove and premium baserunning skills are worth the lack of offense that has become synonymous with Hamilton’s name. Though he was long touted as one of the game’s premier prospects due to his 80-grade speed, Hamilton has mustered just a .244/.297/.332 batting line in five seasons since becoming a regular with Cincinnati back in 2014. That production is even more questionable when considering the fact that Hamilton plays his home games in Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park, which is one of baseball’s most hitter-friendly settings; both OPS+ and wRC+ indicate that when adjusting for that hitter-friendly home park, Hamilton’s offense has been a full 30 percent worse than that of a league-average hitter.

    To his credit, Hamilton has stolen more than 50 bases on four different occasions and, even in a “down” year in that regard, swiped 34 bags last season. He’s also delivered a whopping 51 Defensive Runs Saved in Center Field, which is largely backed up by a +45.5 Ultimate Zone Rating in his big league career. Statcast’s newest outfield defensive metric, Outs Above Average, only goes back three seasons but still feels that Hamilton has recorded a staggering 52 outs more than a league-average center fielder would generate, based on catch probability data.

    At 28 years of age, it seems unlikely that Hamilton will ever develop into a bona fide offensive threat, though it’s certainly not out of the question that a change of scenery could bring about some improvement at the plate. He’ll likely have no shortage of interested teams inquire with his representatives at Wasserman, and the sheer extent of his baserunning and defensive value makes him a likely candidate to land a big league deal elsewhere.

    For the Reds, the move opens up roughly $6MM of payroll next season — a relatively small but not insignificant sum as the organization aggressively pursues rotation upgrades. Cincinnati is reportedly even intrigued by top-of-the-market options, most recently being tied to Dallas Keuchel, though it remains to be seen if they can convince a top-tier name to sign on to pitch at Great American Ball Park for a club that hasn’t had a winning season since 2013. Certainly, the added payroll space can’t hurt.

    Of course, the Reds now also have a need in center field that may need to go outside the organization to fill. There’s been talk of moving top prospect Nick Senzel to the outfield, though injuries limited the former No. 2 overall pick to 44 games in 2018 and his pro experience has come exclusively in the infield. Scott Schebler has a bit of experience in center field but has traditionally been more of a corner option, while Jesse Winker has been regarded primarily as a left fielder himself. Phil Ervin and Jose Siri represent other options, but given that the Reds hope to take a step toward being more competitive in 2019, it seems likely that they’ll pursue a more established option.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Reds Reportedly Have Serious Interest In Dallas Keuchel]]> 2018-11-29T20:08:30Z 2018-11-29T20:08:30Z As they seek to bolster their questionable rotation, the Reds are “all over” free agent southpaw Dallas Keuchel, according to a report from Jon Heyman of Fancred. Cincinnati has also reached out to fellow open-market lefty J.A. Happ, per the report.

    It’ll certainly be interesting to see if the Reds land one of these targets, but it’s notable enough just to hear of the interest. Keuchel, of course, is one of the top free agents on the market. MLBTR rated him fourth on its top fifty list, predicting a four-year, $82MM pact.

    Though he’s plenty accomplished, Keuchel is also nearing his 31st birthday and was not at peak form in 2018. He still got solid results, and generated plenty of weak contact, but also saw big year-over-year drops in his swinging strike rate (10.9% to 8.3%) and groundball rate (66.8% to 53.7%).

    At his best, Keuchel gets a few more strikeouts and quite a few more worm-burners. He also has at times been quite tough to take out of the yard; as Heyman notes, that’s an important consideration for a team playing in a bandbox.

    The Reds no doubt like the fact that Keuchel and Happ have generally been durable and given a good number of innings over the past several seasons. Keuchel did have some shoulder and neck issues, but worked through them and topped 200 frames for the third time in 2018. Happ is already 36 years of age, but has averaged 155 frames annually dating back to 2011. Both come with risks, of course, but neither seems to have particular health concerns.

    Whether either of these or other top free agent hurlers will requite the Reds’ interest remains to be seen. Certainly, the team’s willingness to match or beat the rest of the market will be a deciding factor. It seems, though, that we can generally expect the Reds at least to explore many of the best-available pitchers over the remainder of the winter.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Reds Claim Jordan Patterson]]> 2018-11-29T19:37:53Z 2018-11-29T19:37:53Z The Reds have claimed outfielder/first baseman Jordan Patterson from the Mets, per a club announcement. He was only recently claimed by the New York organization from the Rockies.

    Clearly, the Mets had hoped to stash Patterson off of their 40-man roster. Instead, he’ll hang on to a MLB placement — for the time being, at least. He does not appear to be particularly clean fit on a Reds roster that already has plenty of options at his positions to face right-handed pitching, but it’s still possible he’ll enter camp with a shot at earning a job.

    Regardless, it seems reasonable to expect that the Patterson will get a shot at some point in his age-27 season. He has little left to prove at the plate in the upper minors, after all, having slashed .282/.363/.516 over three campaigns at Triple-A — an impressive track record even though he was hitting at altitude.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Latest On Noah Syndergaard]]> 2018-11-29T19:40:33Z 2018-11-29T19:21:56Z While other major rumors swirl, the Mets appear to have a line open with other organizations regarding power righty Noah Syndergaard. Chatter on Thor has been percolating for some time now, but there’s increasing indication that the Mets actually prefer to move the franchise cornerstone.

    Indeed, the New York org is “motivated” to move on from Syndergaard, according to Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs (Twitter link), with the organization said to be reaching out to rivals to gauge interest. As others have suggested, the Mets would then anticipate turning around and bringing in another starter via free agency.

    It remains somewhat unclear precisely why the Mets have determined that trading Syndergaard is the right course, but new GM Brodie Van Wagenen is clearly out to re-shape the roster. That the big righty is a former Van Wagenen client only adds to the intrigue. In any event, there’ll be no shortage of suitors. When healthy, Syndergaard is a monster on the mound and a rather marketable asset to boot.

    The rival club most frequently tied to Syndergaard of late is the Padres. As Jon Heyman of Fancred tweets, though, the San Diego outfit is not only unwilling to part with top prospect Fernando Tatis Jr., but won’t part with MacKenzie Gore or Luis Urias, either. It seems that the Friars are more amenable to discussing other prospects, though it’s arguable there are a few others who are or ought to be just as untouchable as that trio.

    Otherwise, the Brewers are now a team to watch on Syndergaard, according to Andy Martino of Their level of interest isn’t clear, but it’s obviously not hard to imagine the Milwaukee org liking the idea of placing Thor atop their rotation. The Reds and Yankees, however, are not involved in the pursuit.

    As for the Mets’ apparent plan to add another arm if they move Syndergaard, it’s anyone’s guess how that’ll play out. Certainly, with other moves afoot that’d add salary, this approach would indicate a real willingness to boost the payroll. Just how far, though, remains to be seen. The top-available pitchers would require significant contracts. Other, lesser hurlers are obviously under consideration — Mike Puma of the New York Post cites Gio Gonzalez on Twitter — but assuredly will not bring Syndergaard’s upside and will still out-earn him in 2019 (he’s projected at just $5.9MM).

    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Offseason Outlook: Cincinnati Reds]]> 2018-11-28T14:09:42Z 2018-11-28T05:08:07Z MLBTR is publishing Offseason Outlooks for all 30 teams.  Click here to read the other entries in this series.

    Reds ownership has promised a record payroll on the heels of a fourth-consecutive last-place finish in the NL Central and their lowest attendance total in over 30 years. While they’re not likely to be contenders in a particularly tough division, the club figures to be on the upswing in 2019. They’ll almost certainly be looking to add some long-term pieces whom they expect to be on the next competitive team in Cincinnati.

    Guaranteed Contracts

    • Joey Votto, 1B: $125MM through 2023, plus $7MM buyout on $20MM option for 2024
    • Homer Bailey, P: $23MM through 2019, plus $5MM buyout on $25MM mutual option for 2020
    • Raisel Iglesias, RP: $24.125MM through 2021
    • Eugenio Suarez, 3B: $62.5MM through 2024, plus $2MM buyout on $15MM option for 2025
    • Tucker Barnhart, C: $9.75MM through 2021, plus $500K buyout on $7.5MM option for 2022
    • David Hernandez, RP: $2.5MM through 2019
    • Jared Hughes, RP: $2.125MM through 2019, plus $250K buyout on $3MM option for 2020

    Arbitration-Eligible Players (projections via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz)

    Free Agents

    [Cincinnati Reds Depth Chart Cincinnati Reds Payroll Outlook]

    Not only was 2018 the Reds’ fourth consecutive season of fewer than 70 wins, but they also faced the added humiliation of being the only team in their division to finish with a losing record. They managed to draw just 1.63 million fans to Great American Ballpark, their lowest attendance figure since 1984. The organization’s relationship with its fan base is facing a significant strain at the moment; ownership will have to hope that an overhaul of their coaching staff and intent to add about $30MM in payroll will help revitalize interest in watching the Reds.

    Of course, that gesture alone won’t be enough; if they’re unable to field a competitive team, they may again be looking at a sparse turnout in 2019. Fortunately, they’re likely to add wins by virtue of internal improvements alone. Young players such as Jesse Winker, Luis Castillo and Jose Peraza are solid bets to take additional steps forward, and they may have some cavalry on the way in the form of top prospect Nick Senzel. Certainly, nobody expects the Reds to become a winning team due solely to surge from within. But with a solid position-player core already in place — led by Eugenio Suarez, Joey Votto, Tucker Barnhart, Scott Schebler, and Scooter Gennett (who’s in his final season of contract control) — those up-and-coming players could give fans something to cheer for if things break right.

    Clearly, to move the needle toward contention, the Reds will need to go outside the organization at some point. The club has clearly signaled it intends to do so this winter, though that does not mean that it anticipates any wild spending that would tie up too much future payroll space.

    The first and most obvious place to add wins is to a rotation that has perennially been one of the worst in baseball of late, having finished 30th, 29th and 27th in Fangraphs WAR among MLB teams in 2016, 2017 and 2018, respectively. DeSclafani is a lock for a rotation spot if he can remain healthy (though that’s not a given), while Castillo and Tyler Mahle will take up two more. Beyond them, Cody Reed and Robert Stephenson are among the potential rotation candidates, but neither has yet to make good on his once lofty prospect status. Ergo, the biggest item on Cincinnati’s docket will be to add at least one viable major-league starter, and quite likely a second.

    That’s more than just pure logic; it echoes recent sentiments laid out by president of baseball operations Dick Williams, who hopes to add a pair of pitchers this winter. That doesn’t necessarily mean two starters, but Cincinnati’s already been connected to several prominent names on the trade market, including Indians aces Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco and high-powered Mets hurler Noah Syndergaard. Needless to say, those are some rather big names who’ll draw significant interest and may not be moved at all; it’d remain a surprise to see any land in Cinci.

    It’s not apparent what they’d be able to offer a club with clear intentions to contend in 2019, unless they’re willing to part with Senzel (which seems unlikely), but Williams will surely be knocking on plenty of other doors as well. He’s said to have contacted the Yankees about Sonny Gray, and the Reds were reportedly involved in the James Paxton sweepstakes before he ultimately went to the Bronx. Hurlers such as Marcus Stroman and old friend Mike Leake could conceivably make sense in the right circumstances. Certainly, the club possesses the means to do a significant deal; it would be irresponsible not to point out that the Reds have an impressive collection of upside prospects in the lower minors, so they’ve got a plethora of enticing ways to ignite a conversation.

    The free-agent market as an alternative is a much more blurry picture. On the one hand, Williams has suggested that the club plans to be “aggressive” in front of available players and their agents. On the other, some whispers we’ve heard strongly hint that the Reds are unlikely to be in play for any of the top-tier arms on the market. If that’s true, one might surmise that any pursuit of high-end starters beyond due diligence is unlikely. Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel, Nathan Eovaldi and perhaps even J.A. Happ might not fall within the Reds’ line of sight.

    Further illustrating that point (within the above link) is the rumor that the club is seeking to add a mid-rotation arm and a middle-to-late-inning reliever. Missing on the top of the market (should it come to pass) might leave some fans feeling disappointed, though it’s plenty arguable that reaching for a costly veteran now would be unwise.

    If there’s a particularly interesting fit on the open market, it could be Japanese left-hander Yusei Kikuchi. Unless the club’s scouting department is severely down on him in comparison to the rest of the league, it seems a near certainty that the Reds will join the pursuit. Kikuchi’s relative youth would fit perfectly within the puzzle of a rebuilding club on the upswing, and while he’ll command a lengthy contract, the initial guess at MLBTR is that he won’t command a significant sum in terms of average annual value. It’s speculation to be sure, but Reds fans will want to pay attention to the rumblings that surround the Seibu Lions star.

    While Gio Gonzalez and Anibal Sanchez also could fill innings as veteran rotation pieces, the only player they’ve actually been connected to is Matt Harvey, their lone outgoing free agent. The right-hander and former All-Star was traded to Cincinnati early on in the season after being designated for assignment by the Mets, and went on to make 24 starts for his new club to the tune of a 4.50 ERA. While that performance seems more indicative of a back-of-the-rotation arm, he had somewhat more encouraging peripherals for those who can look beyond his proneness to the long ball. As a Red, Harvey posted a strong 3.96 K/BB ratio with a 4.14 xFIP. And of course, he still tempts a spark of upside based on the talent he showed earlier on in his career. It wouldn’t be prudent to expect an All-Star-type resurgence, but for the two-year, $22MM contract MLBTR predicts for him, he could be worth serious consideration.

    As for the “middle-to-late-inning reliever” the Cincinnati brass is said to be seeking, there are myriad options in free agency to choose from. One would think the size of their market makes a Craig Kimbrel pursuit a challenge, but between the #17 and #26 spots on our free agent rankings sit no fewer than seven talented, proven bullpen arms who could be feasible targets for the Reds. That they’re planning to up their payroll by $30MM means that any of those players could be very real options, and would help add to an already-solid back-end trio of Iglesias, Hughes and Amir Garrett. Failing a free-agent signing, the club has more than enough resources to pursue options on the trade market.

    Though it’s true that investing in relief pitching can be an iffy way to tie up resources, the outdated notion of paying big cash for a tried-and-true closer has largely gone by the wayside. The Reds already locked in a price for their own ninth-inning man, regardless, with a three-year pact with Iglesias that provides some cost certainty/savings (but does not expand the club’s control). Even adding a few lesser relievers could be sensible approach for the Reds, perhaps helping them to pick up a few extra winnable games and/or generate trade assets. While the club’s 2018 relief corps featured a few solid performers, after all, it was only a middle-of-the-road unit overall. And several hurlers profile as possible regression candidates after outperforming their peripherals last year. Boosting the depth, then, would certainly be warranted even if more significant additions aren’t in the offing.

    The Cincinnati offense is a bit of a clearer picture. The club’s two through six positions are each assigned to a solid player with an optimistic outlook, making their infield probably the biggest strength of the team. Turning an eye to the outfield, however, reveals a generally less-impressive cast with plenty of question marks. The current alignment projects to feature Hamilton in center, with Schebler and Winker at the corners. Senzel’s gotten some outfield reps, but there’s no telling whether or not he’ll be deemed ready to contribute in the season’s first half, and that’s to say nothing of his injury history.

    Frankly, it’s not hard to see where an upgrade would go, if one is pursued. Hamilton and Schebler just do not profile as first-division regulars. Each is a useful player — the former, a potentially dynamic reserve; the latter, a sturdy piece — but neither has shown the capacity to sustain significant production. Whether Winker can do so remains to be seen. Regardless, all three are either left-handed hitters or, in Hamilton’s case, a switch-hitter who’s best utilized against right-handed pitching. It’s a situation that cries out for a high-quality, right-handed hitting addition. Perhaps it’s too pie-in-the-sky to suggest A.J. Pollock, but he’d be a nice match who’d push Hamilton out of everyday duties in center (if not onto the trade block) while representing a multi-year solution up the middle. In that scenario, Senzel would be free to finish his development and step in at second for a departing Gennett.

    That’s the sort of move a clear contender would consider. Whether it’s one this club will or should pursue is surely debatable. There’s a difference, after all, between a season of positive momentum and one of serious contention. While the Reds are certain to improve on their win totals from the past four years, their division is stacked with formidable foes in the form of the Brewers, Cubs and Cardinals. Each of those teams not only places a heavy roadblock upon the path to a division title, but they’ll downright make it difficult for the Reds to eke out interdivisional wins. Cincinnati will need to face those clubs a total of 57 times in 2019, and without a major facelift and some significant luck they probably won’t be considered favorites to win any individual games against their intimidating foes.

    With that in mind, the Reds would be irresponsible to cash in too many of their prospect chips in an aggressive win-now push. Rather, we’re more likely to see them make future-oriented moves that improve the team now without jeopardizing their long-term outlook. Spending money is something of a different question, though there too it’s necessary to keep the future spending power in mind. Perhaps taking a shot at a controllable, buy-low trade target such as Michael Taylor or Keon Broxton is likelier than pursuit of Pollock, for instance. The Reds did quite well, after all, to score Gennett under similar circumstances. Of course, that move was made two seasons back, and fans wouldn’t be wrong to feel that the team ought to have greater urgency now than it did then. After all, Gennett, like Hamilton, could be dealt away or reach the open market without ever having been a significant part of a winning Cincinnati ballclub.

    Even if they won’t be favorites to play into October this year, Reds fans have quite a fun winter ahead of them. After all, the long-suffering Cincinnati baseball fans can finally sense the other side of the rebuild materializing on the horizon. What’s more, the moves made and players acquired this offseason will (hopefully) help bring the next contending Reds team into focus. Expectations should remain tempered, but it’s finally a fun time again to be a Reds fan.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Reds Agree To Three-Year Deal With Raisel Iglesias]]> 2018-11-28T02:21:20Z 2018-11-28T02:20:12Z NOVEMBER 27: Iglesias will receive a $6MM salary in 2019, followed by $9MM and $9.125MM paydays, per Jon Heyman of Fancred (via Twitter).

    NOVEMBER 21: The Reds announced today that they have agreed to a three-year deal with closer Raisel Iglesias. It will promise him $24.125MM, per’s Mark Feinsand (via Twitter), but won’t expand the team’s control rights.

    This is a fairly unusual contract agreement; though we have seen an increasing number of multi-year, arbitration-only deals, they are typically of shorter duration and in some cases give the team additional option years. In this case, though, Iglesias was playing under an unusual contract in the first place, having signed a deal that would no longer be permitted under MLB’s international rules.

    Under his original contract, Iglesias had the right to exit the guaranteed portion of the deal and enter arbitration. He elected not to do so last year, but still had the right to turn down the $5MM payday he already had in hand for 2019.* Whether or not he’d have done so is not clear, but perhaps he’d have rolled the dice on boosting his salary both now and in the future. Certainly, barring a disastrous intervening campaign, it was highly likely he’d have elected to test the arb process in 2020.

    Where things get confusing with this deal is the 2021 campaign, the final year covered. Under his original contract, which runs only through 2020, he did not obtain the right to elect free agency early. Accordingly, he’d already have been controlled through 2021 regardless of today’s extension. That distinguishes it in a critical way from, say, the recent extensions secured by Brad Hand (link) and Felipe Vazquez (link).

    In other words, this deal is all about resolving the salary uncertainty and fixing a price tag for Iglesias. The Reds will lock into a new payday to shave off some of the earning upside for Iglesias. Instead of the $10MM total he was promised over the 2019 and 2020 seasons, with the upside to earn more in those years and in particular in 2021, Iglesias will now secure an additional $14.125MM in guaranteed money. It’s certainly possible he could have earned more than that through arbitration, with good health and continued saves tallies, particularly if he had opted into arbitration this season and secured a big new starting point.

    As part and parcel of the financial maneuvering, this move represents an indication that the Reds expect Iglesias not only to remain a productive reliever, but also to hold down the closer’s role. Saves, after all, are a key driver of reliever earnings in arbitration. Of course, it’s also still possible he’ll be shipped out to another organization, but this contract may also be intended in part as a commitment to a core player.

    Iglesias, who’ll turn 29 before the start of the 2019 campaign, showed quite a bit of promise as a starter in his debut season of 2015. For reasons that remain somewhat unclear, he was bumped into the bullpen in the ensuing season and ultimately slid into the ninth inning. Iglesias has since mostly functioned as a traditional closer, with occasional multi-inning appearances but not enough to stand out.

    Though it’s tantalizing to think of what might have been, Iglesias has thrived as a reliever. In 163 total appearances from the pen, he has compiled 201 innings of 2.42 ERA ball with 10.2 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9, picking up 64 saves along the way. He sits in the 96 mph range with his average fastball and still leans on both a change and curve. Iglesias has been utterly dominant against righties and solid-enough against left-handed hitters; in the aggregate he’s among the game’s more effective relievers.

    *The original version of this post mistakenly stated that Iglesias had decided not to opt out of his 2019 guaranteed salary. In fact, he had only previously decided against doing so in 2018. 

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Minor MLB Transactions: 11/23/18]]> 2018-11-24T04:27:41Z 2018-11-24T04:27:41Z Here are the day’s minor moves:

    • Indy ball flamethrower Taylor Grover will get a shot with the Reds after signing a minor-league deal, C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic writes on Twitter. Grover was a tenth-round pick of the Red Sox, but never made it past the Double-A level and found himself out of the affiliated ranks this year. The 27-year-old responded with an eyebrow-raising campaign in which he not only worked into the triple digits with his fastball but pitched to a 2.55 ERA with 11.9 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 over 53 frames split between the American Association and Atlantic League.
    George Miller <![CDATA[NL Central Notes: Iglesias, Cubs, Pirates]]> 2018-11-23T15:44:35Z 2018-11-22T21:30:15Z In the wake of Raisel Iglesias’s newly-signed deal with the Reds, Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer suggests that Iglesias may operate in an altered role for the club in 2019, which may have been part of the team’s motivation to guarantee his salary for the next three seasons. Having worked as the Reds’ full-time closer for the previous two years, Iglesias may be utilized in a greater variety of game situations moving forward. Free of added pressure to eclipse certain statistical benchmarks as a means of boosting his arbitration salary, Iglesias may feel more comfortable pitching in non-save situations, allowing new manager David Bell to deploy his best bullpen weapon in a more versatile role. General manager Dick Williams acknowledged that getting Iglesias and team management on the same page was a factor in finalizing a new contract with his star reliever; now, Iglesias and the team can concern themselves solely with winning games, rather than worrying about the counting stats that influence arbitration salaries.

    All this is not to say that Iglesias has struggled as a closer; in fact, he has excelled in the role, converting 58 of 64 save opportunities over the last two years and notching a 2.43 ERA over that span. Rather, this will simply grant Bell and new pitching coach Derek Johnson increased flexibility in their usage of Iglesias as they seek to maximize his value. It should be noted that Josh Hader, who often pitched multiple innings and entered in high-leverage situations regardless of inning, pitched under Johnson when he served as the Brewers’ pitching coach for the last three seasons.

    More from around the NL Central…

    • Following Jim Hickey’s departure from the team, the Cubs may have found a favorite to fill their vacant pitching coach position from within the organization. The Athletic’s Sahadev Sharma writes that Tommy Hottovy, who currently serves as the club’s run prevention coordinator, has emerged as a leading candidate to seize the job, although no final decision has been made. Just 37, Hottovy has endeared himself to players and coaches up and down the organization, and his presence may help quell some of the uncertainty that comes with Hickey’s unexpected resignation. He has been touted for his communication skills and analytical inclination, and his working relationship with catching coach Mike Borzello has been cited as part of the reason for the team’s sustained pitching success despite coaching instability. Hottovy and Borzello have been credited with tapping into the potential of numerous pitchers over the years, fueling breakouts from Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, and others. Furthermore, he would provide a familiarity that President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein covets, much like newly-hired hitting coach Anthony Iapoce, who worked in the Cubs organization from 2013-15.
    • The Pirates have hired Jacob Cruz to be their assistant hitting coach, writes Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. Cruz previously worked as the Cubs’ minor-league hitting coordinator, a position he earned after joining the organization in 2017 as the Double-A hitting coach. Cruz’s departure represents yet another point of turnover for the Cubs’ coaching staff: the team will also need to fill the hole left by the departure of pitching coach Jim Hickey, who has chosen to step down for personal reasons. For the Pirates, Cruz will join new hitting coach Rick Eckstein in the club’s overhauled hitting department. Alongside Eckstein, he will look to hone the potential of Josh Bell and Gregory Polanco, among others, in order to reinvigorate an offense that ranked 10th in the National League in runs scored.
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Players Added To The 40-Man Roster]]> 2018-11-21T02:32:37Z 2018-11-21T00:15:47Z Tonight marks the deadline for players to be added to their respective organizations’ 40-man rosters. Over the nine hours, there’ll be a flurry of moves, ranging from minor trades (like the one the Indians and Rays made yesterday), waiver claims and players being designated for assignment or outrighted. Each will be made to clear room for players who need protection from this year’s Rule 5 Draft. As a reminder, players who signed at 18 years of age or younger and have five professional seasons are eligible, as are players who signed at 19 or older and have four professional seasons under their belts.

    Here’s a rundown of players who’ve been added to their respective 40-man rosters (which will be updated throughout the day)…

    Read more